Explores the remote Northwest Passage and the stunning fjords of the Baffin Island coastline before crossing to Greenland.
Wildlife is a major draw card, as we venture through the home of the polar bear, muskox, caribou and walrus. There is also a strong historical element: the stories of the ill-fated expedition by Sir John Franklin nearly 170 years ago are central to our voyage.
|Day 1||Edmonton – Cambridge Bay||Charter flight to Cambridge Bay, board ship|
|Day 2||Northwest Passage – Victoria Strait||Site of HMS Erebus|
|Day 3||Conningham Bay||Beluga whales & Polar bears|
|Day 4||Bellot Strait||Harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears|
|Day 5||Beechey Island||The site of Franklin’s last ‘comfortable winter’|
|Day 6||Devon Island – Lancaster Sound||Muskox and Arctic hare & great hiking|
|Day 7||Navy Board Inlet Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet)||Remote Inuit community of Mittimatalik|
|Day 8||Gibbs Fjord||Giant peaks and snowy glaciers|
|Day 9||Baffin Bay||Whales, Orca, pilot, Sei & fin|
|Day 10||Jacobshavn Icefjord||Giant tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay|
|Day 11||Sisimiut||Colourful local houses and towering granite peaks|
|Day 12||Sondre Stromfjord||
One of the world’s longest fjords, muskox and white-tailed sea eagles
|Day 13||Kangerlussuaq – Ottawa||Farewell your fellow travellers charter flight Ottawa|
We depart Edmonton on a charter flight to Cambridge Bay, a remote outpost above the Arctic Circle. Located on the southern shores of Victoria Island, today it is a centre for hunting, trapping and fishing. Enjoy a walking tour of the town and then board our expedition ship, the Akademik Ioffe. Excitement is in the air as we enjoy a welcome cocktail and cast off, bound for the fabled Northwest Passage.
As we chart a course into the Northwest Passage, our onboard presentation series begins and we delve into the tale of the Franklin expedition. The mystery of what happened was partially solved in September 2014, when a joint Parks Canada and Royal Canadian Geographic Society expedition found the HMS Erebus in the Victoria Strait. One Ocean Expeditions played a pivotal role in the search by carrying underwater search equipment on our ship as well as scientists, historians, researchers, dignitaries and sponsors. We aim to visit Victory Point, travelling very near the a ctual location of the wreck of HMS Erebus, while learning about the quest for exploration that eventually opened up the Arctic. Experts all agree that the second of Franklin’s lost ships, HMS Terror, is likely to be in this vicinity.
This morning we arrive at Conningham Bay on the shore of Prince of Wales. This is one of the most remarkable wildlife sites in the Arctic. A hotspot for polar bears who come here to feast on Beluga whales, it is not unusual to find the shoreline littered with whale skeletons and very healthy looking polar bears!
Today we transit the narrow passage of Bellot Strait. The mixing of waters in this strait provides an abundant food source for marine mammals, and we will keep our eyes peeled for harp seals, bearded seals and even polar bears. The skill of the Captain and officers and the capabilities of the ship become apparent during this exciting day of Arctic navigation. The historic site of Fort Ross, located at the southern end of Somerset Island, is a former Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading outpost. Fascinating archaeological sites nearby tell a story of more than a thousand years of habitation by the Inuit and their predecessors.
Beechey Island is of great historic importance. It is here that Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition spent its last ‘comfortable’ winter in 1845 before disappearing into the icy vastness. A trip ashore at Beechey Island to visit the grave markers on a remote windswept beach gives one pause to wonder on the bravery (or foolhardiness) of these pioneering explorers, as they sought a way through the barren, frozen landscape.
Cruising the coastline of Devon Island, we are now in the waters of Lancaster Sound – a rich, bio-diverse region often referred to as the wildlife ‘super highway’ of the Arctic. Massive volumes of water from Baffin Bay to the east, Beaufort Sea to the west, and the archipelago of islands to the north combine here to make a rich cocktail of nutrients supporting an abundance of Arctic wildlife. We plan to visit the old Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) outpost at Dundas Harbour. Muskox and Arctic hare are sometimes seen around here, and there are great hiking options in the area.
We sight the wild north coast of Baffin Island and navigate through Navy Board Inlet. The vast landscapes of Sirmilik National Park surround us as we approach the remote Inuit community of Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet). A highlight will be a visit to the Natinnak Centre, where a fascinating cultural exhibit showcases daily life, culture and history of the people of the north. We also enjoy meeting the local children of Mittimatalik and marveling at their athletic abilities as they demonstrate traditional Inuit games.
This morning we enter the spectacular Gibbs Fjord. Our expedition ship will be dwarfed by the giant peaks and snowy glaciers as we cruise along the dark waters.
Leaving the rugged coastline of Baffin Island, our crossing of Baffin Bay allows us time to slow down and reflect on the beauty and experiences we have shared. Our team of on-board experts will continue to educate us on the history and wildlife of the region while our naturalists keep watch looking for fulmars and little auks (dovekies), pilot whales and perhaps even orca. As we approach Greenland, we also increase our likelihood of spotting some of the big baleen whales like the fin and sei whales.
If one word could sum up today’s experience it would be ‘ice’. Truly one of the wonders of the world, the Jacobshavn Icefjord – a UNESCO World Heritage site – spews giant tabular icebergs out into Disko Bay. The glacier that creates these stunning monoliths advances at over 40 metres per day, creating around 50 cubic kilometres of ice annually. Our approach to Ilulissat is dependent on the amount of ice in and around the mouth of the fjord. Our Captain and officers are skilled ice navigators and our ship has one of the highest ice ratings of any vessel exploring Arctic waters.
We will explore the fjord behind the town of Sisimiut before going ashore to explore this beautiful location. Characterized by colourful local houses, the town features a towering granite peak as a backdrop. We hope to meet a few of the traditional Greenlandic kayakers and to see a demonstration of ‘Eskimo rolling’ by one of the former Greenland kayak champions. A small museum is another interesting diversion.
One of the world’s longest fjords, Sondre Stromfjord towers above the ship as we sail up it. We plan to venture into some of the small side fjords that we can zodiac into and explore on foot or by kayak. Major geologic and geomorphologic features will surround us and we hope to find muskox along the shores of the fjord as well. Soaring high above us will be the white-tailed sea eagle, riding the thermals off the ridges. There are fantastic opportunities for hiking.
Our journey through the Arctic is all but complete as we disembark the ship in Kangerlussuaq and make our way to the airport and a charter flight returns us to Ottawa. A transfer is provided from the airport to a central location downtown.